A Flathead County jury on Friday night found Bradley Jay Hillious guilty of deliberate homicide in the December 2020 death of his wife, Amanda Hillious, discounting the 35-year-old defendant’s claims that she fell down a flight of stairs by accident at their Kalispell home.
The verdict came in just after 8 p.m. following five hours of deliberation. The victim’s family audibly gasped with relief in the courtroom as Hillious, hunched over the defense table and flanked by his attorneys, began to cry before he was reprimanded to the custody of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8 at 1:30 p.m. Hillious faces a maximum term of life in prison.
Judge Robert Allison presided over the Flathead County District Court trial that began Jan. 3. Evidence and testimony in the case spanned 10 days and wrapped up a week earlier than scheduled, with the defense presenting the entirety of its case in less than two days.
Closing arguments ended Friday afternoon, with prosecutors from the Flathead County Attorney’s Office maintaining that Hillious strangled his wife in a deliberate act that caused her death. Throughout the trial, they pointed to inconsistencies between the defendant’s version of events and the victim’s injuries. They also produced a witness with whom Hillious had an ongoing affair, suggesting he had a motive to kill Amanda, and they introduced evidence revealing his demonstrated history of domestic violence against his wife.
Defense attorneys maintained throughout the trial that law enforcement rushed to judgment in their investigation while emergency medical responders provided negligent care for Amanda. They also suggested the victim had a hostile relationship with her husband’s father, Scott Hillious, who lived with the couple at their home and who the lawyers characterized as “explosive.” The father was never included as a suspect in the investigation, the lawyers noted, even though Amanda sought out an order of protection against him in addition to her husband.
In April 2020, when Amanda received the order of protection against her husband and father-in-law, Scott Hillious threatened the law enforcement officers serving the order and made suicidal statements. Questions surrounding what role Scott Hillious might have played in the events surrounding Amanda’s death gained urgency after he died by suicide on Dec. 24, 2020, two weeks after his daughter-in-law’s murder.
“The conclusion of all the evidence will equate to one verdict of not guilty,” defense attorney Jami Rebsom said in her closing argument.
The jury, however, ultimately sided with county prosecutors who presented evidence and testimony indicating Amanda’s neck injuries and her broken hyoid bone were consistent with strangulation. Expert witnesses classified the injuries and their severity as the kind that typically occur as a result of hangings or physical strangulations.
In an effort to demonstrate other irregularities in the defendant’s version of events, prosecutors presented a video recording of a jail visit between Hillious and his mistress. In the recording, Hillious told the woman that his father had admitted to killing Amanda during a conversation shortly before the older man’s death. However, Hillious never reported that information to law enforcement.
Prosecutors also said there was ample evidence that the defendant’s mistress, Rylie Adams, was planning to move in with Hillious and continue their affair prior to Amanda’s death, giving him an incentive to kill her.
“The motive was to get the squatter out of the house so he could get his new girlfriend in,” Flathead County Deputy Attorney John Donovan said.
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